Embrace Abilities!
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KSI Helps Rehoboth Beach Country Club Embrace One Man's Abilities

January 19, 2015 - Workplace diversity must include people with disabilities. And there are resources available to help progressive employers succeed when they hire these capable workers. On January 16, WBOC’s Delmarva Life aired a segment showing how a partnership between local employer Rehoboth Beach Country Club; Supported Employment provider Kent-Sussex Industries, Inc. (KSI); and exceptional worker Jerome Watson created success for everyone to embrace their abilities.

Jerome was working part-time for a local grocery store and realized he needed to use his time more effectively. “They didn’t give me enough hours,” Jerome remembers. “They cut back because of the economy.”

He started working with KSI Supported Employment to find a situation that better suited his needs. KSI Supported Employment provided Jerome with skills assessment, job development, and on-the-job coaching and support to increase his odds for success. KSI Employment Specialist Ann Haggerty helped find a full-time opportunity at Rehoboth Beach Country Club, accompanied Jerome to an interview there, spent a session working with him to demonstrate to the country club’s management what he could do and then helped him train for his job duties when he was hired.

Rehoboth Beach Country Club is a private club established in 1925 located on 150 acres overlooking Rehoboth Bay. Offering its 800 members and their guests the finest golf, tennis, swimming, fitness and dining opportunities, they also host full banquets, weddings and special events in their 40,000 square foot clubhouse. All of that gives Jerome plenty of jobs at which he can excel, including janitorial services in the clubhouse, stocking and cleaning in the club’s fitness center, rest room maintenance, vacuuming, trash collection, pool area cleaning and special event set up. Having the extra challenges and responsibilities of working with the country club allowed Jerome’s finer qualities as an employee to be displayed, which has made all the difference in this opportunity.

"I like working full time. And I like the people,” Jerome reports. “We do a lot here, with all the weddings and events.” Ms. Haggerty has seen how Jerome shines when he’s given the opportunity to work up to his abilities. “Jerome is very enthusiastic, always has a smile on his face and is always willing to work,” says Ms. Haggerty. “He’s grown in his abilities during his time here and has made friends with his coworkers who have supported him.”

Jerome’s supervisor at the country club, Frank Ali, really appreciates having a dedicated employee willing to work consistently in the job’s he’s assigned. But he also finds great value in having the extra support for success that Ms. Haggerty brings with Supported Employment services.

“Eighty percent of the job is showing up ready to work. To get the person here is the key thing,” says Mr. Ali. “I know at 7:00 in the morning, Jerome will be here.”

Assistance from Ann Haggerty helps ensure his reliability on the job. “She’s the best because she comes down and checks on me and calls me,” Jerome adds. “We’re working like a team to make sure everything is right so I can make Frank happy.”

Rehoboth Beach Country Club general manager Jim Killion agrees that the extra partnership from KSI’s staff helps Jerome stay on task. And it’s especially appreciated because KSI Supported Employment services come at no charge to the employer outside of standard employee costs. “The kind of support he gets helps him get where he needs to be,” Mr. Killion related during his interview with WBOC’s Delmarva Life reporter Sean Streicher. “We get a solid, dependable employee, and that’s important…especially in the job he’s doing. Jerome is steady, on time, dependable…all of the things employers are looking for.”

And it didn’t take long before Jerome became a valued team member with the rest of the club staff. While he’s working for Rehoboth Beach Country Club, Jerome joins the staff enjoying employee meals prepared daily by the club’s chef. And knowing how important good food is to Jerome, the kitchen staff nurtures his interest even more. “I have a friend in the restaurant who gives me some recipes, because I love to cook,” Jerome says.

“Everyone has taken to Jerome really fast. He became a member of the crew in a real way in a short time,” said Mr. Killion. “The members have said what a nice guy he is and what a great job he is doing. He’s got a great attitude and he’s happy doing everything he’s asked to do.”

As a progressively-minded employer, Rehoboth Beach Country Club went outside their normal hiring process to accommodate a worker with just the abilities they needed. But for club general manager Jim Killion, the partnership between his staff, KSI and Jerome has much personal benefit as well as making business sense. “We want to be able to participate in things that are good for the community,” Mr. Killion explains. “And Rehoboth Beach County Club is proud to help KSI in its mission to provide meaningful employment for those in our local community.”

Ultimately, the effects of opportunities businesses create by hiring supported employees are very personal. “Everybody wants to be a productive member of society, to contribute and give back. And if you don’t have that opportunity, there’s something important missing,” says KSI Employment Manager Kami Giglio, who coordinates the organization’s Supported Employment program. “When we help fill that need, that’s when we see people blossom.”

KSI is a private, not for profit agency assisting people with disabilities in pursuit of their potential in employment and meaningful participation in their communities. Approximately 250 individuals receive KSI services each year, which include transportation; Prevocational evaluation, training, and skill development; community-based work opportunities, individual Supported Employment, and competitive job placement.

For more information about KSI, call Alicia Hollis at 302/422-4014 ext. 3015, or visit their web page at www.ksiinc.org. Like us on Facebook, www.facbook.com/ksiworks.